Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Digital nationalism in China: Sino-Japanese history in online networks

This project will explore how Chinese digital networks are grounded in real-world institutions, and how interest groups and individuals use digital infrastructures to shape public discourse on national history.

Duration
2013  -   2016
Contact
Florian Schneider
Funding
NWO NWO

Our newspapers tell us that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strictly controls Chinese media and public discourse, leaving us with the impression of a society with only one dominant voice. But how true is this in the age of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet? Does it hold, for instance, for the powerful nationalist discourse in today's China, with Japan as its favourite foreign Other? If not, who are the other players, and what roles do they play?

In today's China, networked actors range from state agencies and CCP organizations to private netizens. They engage in highly active online communication, thereby influencing public discourse. A prominent topic in this discourse is Sino-Japanese history, which extends to present-day current affairs. Combining quantitative and qualitative methods, Digital Nationalism will examine both stable, long-term networks surrounding the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, and currently emerging, short-term networks on the ongoing Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute.

This project will explore how Chinese digital networks are grounded in real-world institutions, and how interest groups and individuals use digital infrastructures to shape public discourse on national history. The case studies will demonstrate how Chinese animosities towards Japan are reworked in the service of community building, an activity beneficial both to the state and to private actors, although for different reasons. More generally, Digital Nationalism will confront current theories of political communication and ICT with the realities of the world?s largest national web, which is subject to effective control by China's Party-state.

Digital Nationalism will contribute to our understanding of nationalism in the information age, and of the dynamics of public discourse in an emerging Great Power. It will show how ICTs can become vehicles for nationalism, and how expression can be manipulated to construct a sense of community, at the expense of diversity and intercultural tolerance.

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